5.1:1? 6.2:1? Huh? You’re ready to buy a new freshwater fishing reel, but all the talk about gear ratio has you “reel-y” confused. You want to make sure you buy the right reel with the most appropriate gear ratio for the type of fishing you plan to do. Or, maybe you’re wondering which fishing techniques call for higher reel gear ratios, and which you’d use with a reel that has a lower gear ratio?
No worries my fellow anglers, it’s actually a lot simpler than it seems. The gear ratio of a reel is measured by how many times the reel spool turns for each 360-degree turn of the handle. For example, if a reel has a gear ratio of 6.4:1, for each turn of the handle, the spool inside turns exactly 6.4 times. To make it easy, just remember that the lower the number, the slower the reel. In other words, a reel with a gear ratio of 5.1:1 is going to be a much slower reel than one with a 7.1:1 gear ratio because the spool of a 5.1:1 reel will spin 5.1 times with each handle turn, while the 7.1:1 spool will turn 7.1 times with each handle turn.
Check out this easy breakdown of gear ratio speed along with examples of when you might use each type when freshwater fishing for bass.
Slow Reel Gear Ratio
A reel with a slow reel gear ratio would be a good choice if you like to use deep diving crankbaits. For example, a reel with a 5.1:1 to 5.4:1 gear ratio is going to help you get your baits down to maximum depth while keeping you better connected to your lure so that you don’t miss any strikes. In other words, a reel with lower gear ratio will allow you to keep your bait down in the strike zone for a longer period of time when fishing in deeper water.
Medium Reel Gear Ratio
A freshwater reel with a medium gear ratio between 5.4:1 and 6.2:1 is generally your best all-around choice. You can effectively work spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, swimming jigs, and topwater lures with a reel that has a medium gear ratio. You’ll want to keep in mind that it takes more experience to fish slowly with a fast reel, so a medium gear ratio in the 5.4:1 to 6.2:1 range will allow beginning anglers to fish both slow and fast-moving baits easier. For example, you would notice the difference when retrieving a spinnerbait using a reel with a gear ratio of 5:1 — a low gear ratio would be too slow if you were using any kind of retrieve other than slow-rolling, while a ratio of 7:1 would be too fast.
Fast Reel Gear Ratio
Reels with a fast or high reel gear ratio, between 7.1:1 and 8.1:1 are generally best for more experienced anglers because they are typically used with fast moving lures like lipless crankbaits or buzzbaits. Soft plastic baits and flipping jigs can be the exception to this rule. These techniques often create additional slack in your line, and a high gear ratio can help by make it easier to get a fast, firm hookset.
There you have it! You now have some general guidelines on when to use reels with slow, medium, and fast gear ratios. Are there any other fishing tackle or gear questions that you’d like the answers to? If so, use my online contact form or head over to the Shefishes2 Facebook Page and message me.